In summary

Did you know that the state has the nation’s largest rent relief program, with $5.2 billion? Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to make sure you do.

Did you know that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget includes a $5.2 billion California rent relief program?

Newsom wants to make sure that you do.

In Bell Gardens on Wednesday, the governor met with local leaders and beneficiaries of the program to spotlight — and maybe win a little praise for — state efforts to shield tenants from eviction and help them pay their back rent. 

As we’ve seen repeatedly this year, this latest whistle stop for the governor was part policy announcement, part laudatory recall campaign event

  • Carmen Nares, a program beneficiary from South Gate: “I didn’t think it was true. It’s true. You guys have to apply. They’re going to help you.”

California has been trying to get eligible tenants to apply for its federally-funded rent relief programs for months — with limited success. Standing in the way: A lack of technological know-how, language barriers, a confusing application process and simple disbelief. Latino Californians have been particularly underrepresented among the list of applicants.

Timing is of the essence. Veronica Harms, a spokesperson for the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, said so far the state has spent a little more than $150 million, “a dramatic increase in participation” over just a few weeks ago, after the state simplified the application.

But that’s still less than 3% of the total funds available. The odds of another eviction moratorium extension past Sept. 30 are “very modest,” said Newsom.

What happens after that?  

San Francisco Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu raised that very concern on the most recent episode of CalMatters’ housing podcast Gimme Shelter

“I anticipate that after September 30 we will see a significant increase in the number of evictions. Now, hopefully, by that time a lot of folks have gotten money so that they’re no longer in rental debt. But we just don’t know.”

Keep up with the recall using CalMatters’ new guide.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,740,092 confirmed cases (0.08% from previous day) and 63,508 deaths (+0.05% from previous day).

California has administered 42,620,086 vaccine doses, and 60.7% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. So what are they gonna do about it?

Rafael Suarez and April Lei outside of their trailer home try to stay cool during a hot day in Los Angeles, on July 9, 2021. The couple, who say they have lived on this block for a year and a half, try to keep their belongings organized in order to avoid sweeps. Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Rafael Suarez and April Lei outside of their trailer home try to stay cool during a hot day in Los Angeles, on July 9, 2021. The couple tries to keep their belongings organized to avoid clean-up sweeps. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

One of the GOP’s favorite critiques of Gavin Newsom is his job performance on homelessness. 

The sheer number of people living in shelters or on the streets remains one of the state’s most glaring shames and — pandemic or not — it’s a top concern for voters, a majority of whom seem to disapprove of his handling of the issue. The problem predates the current governor, but it’s an easy argument to make. 

Candidate John Cox has toured the state with a giant ball of trash (apparently to draw attention to “the trash that’s left behind” by those without homes). Caitlyn Jenner has identified the conspicuous presence of the unhoused as a reason that wealthy Californians are decamping to neighboring states.

But what do the Republicans hoping to unseat Newsom in the upcoming recall election actually plan to do? 

CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias has a breakdown of what some top competitors say they’ll do:

  • Though current policy prioritizes putting “housing first,” both Cox and former member of Congress Doug Ose say mental health treatment and negative drug tests should be preconditions for access to shelter. 
  • Both also argue that authorities should have more power to compel people to enter treatment.
  • Kevin Faulconer argues that the state should make much more congregate shelter space available — and then prohibit anyone from sleeping outside if space is available. 

Read more about the candidates’ plans — and the response from experts and advocates.

2. COVID-19 deja vu

Fans walk past a vaccination pop-up during an event sponsored by the California Department of Public Health to increase vaccine awareness at a Club America vs. Atlas FC soccer Match at PayPal Park on July 7, 2021 in San Jose. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Fans walk past a vaccination pop-up during an event sponsored by the California Department of Public Health to increase vaccine awareness at a Club America vs. Atlas FC soccer match at PayPal Park on July 7, 2021 in San Jose. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

You could be forgiven for thinking the global pandemic we’ve all been suffering through over the last year and a half is over. 

It isn’t.

One month after the state’s vaunted June 15 reopening day, infections and hospitalizations are once again on the rise, the uber-contagious Delta variant is the dominant strain and vaccination rates are plateauing. CalMatters health reporter Barbara Feder Ostrov breaks down the news — both the good and the bad:

  • Wednesday 3,100 new cases were reported across California — up from a mere 700 on June 15.
  • 3% of all COVID tests are now coming back positive, up from 0.8%.
  • 1,935 people were hospitalized yesterday, up from 981.

Buried in all of these statistics is one very compelling argument to get vaccinated: Nearly all of the new reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among those who haven’t gotten the jab.

A COVID resurgence means a resurgence of the old political debates too.

On Monday, the California Department of Public Health issued a directive ordering students to wear masks on campus — before backtracking by noting that enforcement of the rule is entirely up to local districts and schools.

That’s likely to put local educators in an awkward spot, writes CalMatters’ Joe Hong.

3. Latest ransomware target: Your neighborhood school

Image via iStock

As if teaching during a pandemic wasn’t complicated enough, California schools are facing yet another challenge: The threat of cyberattacks.

In the past five years, more than two dozen California school systems have been targeted by cybercriminals. One of those was the Newhall School District, which manages 10 schools that teach nearly 6,000 students. In September 2020, the school was shuttered by digital saboteurs demanding a ransom payment.

Zayna Syed reports for CalMatters that there are three reasons why public schools are obvious targets for hackers: Few have the resources to build up sophisticated IT security systems, they often leave their systems open to make it easier for students and teachers to access and they really, really need their online systems to work. “They’re essentially low-hanging fruit,” said Andrew Brandt, a malware researcher with SophosLabs. 

The FBI advises organizations — public and private alike — not to pay ransoms to hackers. But California has no law in place and the state’s Department of Education doesn’t offer schools any guidance.

After a week, the school district in Newhall regained access to much of its network. Did they pay up? Administrators declined to say.

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CalMatters commentary

Curbing auto emissions: Amid an ever-worsening climate crisis, California can’t afford to pass up this opportunity to slash car pollution, writes Scott Hochberg, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

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Other things worth your time

How the California Medical Board keeps negligent doctors in business // Los Angeles Times

More than a dozen City of San Diego city departments face eviction amid conflict of interest dispute // Voice of San Diego 

Silicon Valley Rep accused of parroting “industry talking points” in heated Dem caucus antitrust debate // The Intercept

For recall backers, the more candidates the merrier // Politico

Another Bay Area Assembly special election may be on the way // San Francisco Examiner

California redistricting commission asks state Supreme Court for deadline extension // Los Angeles Times

Troubled by right-wing media metrics, Facebook opts for “selective transparency” // New York Times

Britney Spears can hire her own lawyer in conservatorship battle // Buzzfeed

Sacramento and San Francisco top scorchers in urban “heat island” study // Sacramento Bee

Photo essay: a life in Silicon Valley before there was silicon // Guardian

See you tomorrow.

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Ben covers housing policy and previously covered California politics and elections. Prior to these roles at CalMatters, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and...